What does it look like for you and me to actually show God’s heart, God’s welcome, God’s priorities to our neighbours? What does it look like for your church, your ministry, your kitchen table, your caf table at school, your Tim Horton’s table…to be a glimpse of who gathered around Jesus?
In my one-on-one time with the Lord I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah. It sure packs some punches. Over the last week I felt like it has punched me in the gut at least twice.
Here is what is glaring in our faces – It HUGELY matters how we treat foreigners, singles, the oppressed, the hungry, the naked (vulnerable) and the poor. In fact, God seems to care most of all how we treat these people. He seems to care way more about it then how many devos we do, how many church services we attend, how many youth rallies we’ve been too, how many games of underground church we've played, how many worship songs we've complained about, how big and fancy our building is or isn't, how many Christians we hang around...
To me it has felt like God has been saying - You say you are a Christian, you say your church/organization is following me, well then...Here is what I’m about, are you becoming more about these things? That blunt, that simple.
The truth is our lives and our churches so easily become about OTHER things.
It has got me asking – how do I, how do those I lead, become more about befriending the foreigner (or newcomer to Canada), singles, the oppressed, the poor and the vulnerable?
My hope is to get you asking the same thing.
Read this and watch for the punch. Actually, now or later go and look up the whole chapters (Isaiah 56 and 58), for space and attention span reasons I’ll only pull a few of the verses here.
From Isaiah 56:3-7
“Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ And let no eunuch complain, ‘I am only a dry tree.’ For this is what the Lord says: ‘To the eunuch...I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever. And foreigners…I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer...for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
How might the foreigner feel? Like they don’t belong, like they are excluded. Yup, that sure does include foreigners in Canada and in our churches today.
How might the eunuch or the single person feel? Like they have no future, no family. Yup, that also sure does include singles in our neighbourhoods and churches today.
It is up to us to MAKE SURE the foreigner and the single person does NOT feel this way! Why? Well, look how God feels about them.
How does God feel about the foreigner? He desires to include them in His house, His family. They will belong, they are included.
How does God feel about the eunuch or single person? He can make their name last forever. He will include them in a family that goes on and on, His family, our family.
So, followers of Jesus – do you and I have God’s heart for the foreigner and the single person? Are we including them in our circles NOW, making them a part of our family, knowing that God values them deeply, wants them as part of His family and has given them an important place in His family?
OK, so when is the last time you had a foreigner or a single person around your table?
How well do you include them in your circles or family?
Ready for the next punch already?
In Isaiah 58:6-10, God says
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness…”
Our role as Christians is NOT to be the pointing fingers or spreading malicious talk about others. It is not to criticize how someone ended up in their current state of affairs.
Our role is to be the incarnation of Jesus to one another.
Our role is to care for our own flesh and blood, fellow human beings.
Our role is to be the light in the darkness by our care and love for one another.
So, when is the last time the poor, the hungry, the naked (the vulnerable), and the oppressed were around your table?
When is the last time you, or a group of you from your church, built friendships and genuine connection with the poor and oppressed?
God is clear – that is where His heart is. That is the kind of action, the kind of religion He desires.
Religion that drives us back into our neighbourhoods with His love.
Religion that opens us and our homes to the poor & oppressed.
Religion that joins God in the neighbourhoods.
God came to us, came to me, and made His home in me and my neighbourhood, in my poverty and oppression. My home, my heart is His, for His priorities, His people - the poor, forgotten, lost, broken and "not good enoughs."
This I know – I, our church, and our denomination – need to increasingly show and tell God’s heart for the foreign, the single, the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed in our neighbourhoods and world.
When is the last time _________ was around your table?
What would it look like to truly invite them to your table, build a two-way friendship and include them in your life? Jesus words are words of family, of inclusion.
Will you join God in your neighbourhood?
Will you and I befriend the foreigner, the single, the poor, the vulnerable and the oppressed?God’s heart is already there.